St. Clair County jury awards over $2 million in FELA case against CSX
Plaintiff Roger Bennett hugged at least one St. Clair County juror following a $2.01 million verdict entered in his favor today in a Federal Employer's Liability Act (FELA) case against CSX Transportation.
Bennett's attorney, Ryan Brennan, described his client's case as one of "good and evil," and said he was surprised by the high award.
The trial opened Monday before St. Clair County Circuit Judge Lloyd Cueto and concluded with the jury's verdict just before noon Wednesday.
CSX through its attorney James Bax declined to comment on the case following the verdict's reading.
Bennett, a former CSX conductor, alleged he injured his shoulder in 2003 when he was slammed into a train's windshield.
He claimed that he had been reaching for a radio at the time of the accident and that his employer created a dangerous work environment by failing to replace the malfunctioning radio.
Bennett had sued in 2006 for damages in excess of $100,000 and costs.
The jury awarded him $750,000 for pain and suffering, $750,000 for disability claims, and
more than $500,000 in lost wages.
The award was rounded out by $10,000 for disfigurement.
Brennan said the case was close to his heart following the Wednesday verdict in an
interview with the Madison County Record.
"This case was touched me emotionally," Brennan said. "This really was a case of good and evil. They [the jury] saw through the lies. The railroad flat out got caught in a lie."
Brennan pointed to testimony related to his client's dismissal as proof of the railroad's attempt to skirt blame.
Brennan said that after returning to work following the accident, his client was asked to undergo a company physical by CSX.
Bennett was then dismissed because, according to a doctor's letter, he had allegedly failed to meet federal hearing standards.
According to Brennan, the doctor would go on to admit that there were no such standards at trial.
"It was a lie," Brennan said. "And I think the jury got mad."
Brennan went on to express his happiness with his client's victory.
"It really was a case of good and evil and good won the day," he said.
This is the second verdict entered against CSX in a recent FELA case.
The railroad lost a Madison County FELA suit brought by another former conductor, Victor Hawkins, on May 11.
That verdict totaled $2.56 million.
Hawkins, an Indiana man, claimed he was nearly killed and developed post traumatic stress disorder and a torn right rotator cuff when a CSX train he was riding on hit power lines downed by bad weather in Kentucky six years ago.
Hawkins alleged that CSX could have warned him and fellow train crew members about the bad weather and downed lines and did not.
CSX pointed to Hawkins' history of shoulder problems and personal issues at trial.
Bax also represented CSX in the Hawkins case.
David Jones and Andrew Lampros of Atlanta, Ga. represented Hawkins.
Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis oversaw the Hawkins case.
Edward Brennan is also listed as representing Bennett in the St. Clair County suit.
The Bennett case is St. Clair case number 06-L-104.
The Madison County Hawkins case is case number 07-L-804.